Drug and Alcohol Impaired Driving in Canada: Causes and Solutions
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving i, in 2014 there were over 2,250 deaths due to car crashes. At least 1,250 of those deaths was due to impaired driving. The first thing that comes to mind when we think of impaired driving is alcohol. This is because driving under the influence of alcohol is talked about more than drug impaired driving. However, drug impaired driving is becoming more common especially now that marijuana just recently, in the end of 2018 was legalized in Canada. As stated by the Government of Canada, the number of drivers who died in crashes while under the influence of drugs is 40%, which actually exceeds the number of drivers who died after drinking alcohol, 33%.iii. Because there is more of a threat now, I think a tool to catch drug impaired drivers needs to be created.
Alcohol impaired driving poses a threat to not only Canada but the whole world. Alcohol is a depressant that slows down the function of the central nervous system, the brain, which can alter one’s behavior and thoughts. Taking this into account when people have been drinking and have to make a quick driving decision, the wrong one can be made. Drunk driving’s initial punishment was not enough as people kept committing these selfish crimes, so the government wanted to show everyone how serious they were about it and increased the penalties. According to the Peel Regional Police, “In 2009 the Provincial Government approved the changes to increase the penalties to the WARN Range drinking and driving suspensions.”
The warn range is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 to 0.08. The different penalties depend if it is a first offence, then they would get a 3-day suspension with a $150 penalty fee along with it. If the person had a repeating offence of over 3 times, that person would get a 30-day suspension, have to attend an educational program on alcohol, a 6-month ignition interlock device in the vehicle, and a medical evaluation plus a $150 penalty fee. In a lot of cases people have a couple of drinks and think they are sober enough to drive home. There are many results of this such as; killing other drivers on the road. Some people have tried to take matters into their own hands and start a campaign or organization. One big and effective organization is MADD. MADD Canada’s mission is to put an end to all impaired driving, and also help support victims of impaired driving. As stated by MADD Canada, “Over 1 million students in Grades 7 to 12 see our School Assembly Program annually.” This is important because students are just learning to drive while in high school and out of all the facts they take in about it, this topic is very significant.
MADD also raises awareness for drug impaired driving, so once students are taught about this, they will realize how dangerous it is and hopefully not drive under the influence of anything at all. There are many tools to help police officers determine if a driver has been drinking such as conducting spot checks. Another tool to help prevent driving under the influence is ignition interlock devices installed in vehicles of those who have been caught committing an impaired driving offence. One of the most common ways to help a police officer to detect and prevent an individual from impaired driving is a Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere check. RIDE checks are a form of sobriety checks that are only conducted in Ontario, Canada. RIDE checks usually are set up on major roads and streets and typically occur on holidays, though police conduct them regularly on weekends as well. Other places such as the USA have sobriety checks also, they just do not have this specific spot check Ontario does. As said by James Fell of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, “[Checkpoints are] probably the most effective deterrence strategy we can apply.”
Not all drivers who have been drinking are swerving all over the road, but that does not mean they are not intoxicated. Police also can find drunk drivers and conduct tests to measure how intoxicated they are, such as; breathalyzers and field sobriety tests. Another very helpful tool to prevent drunk driving is the installation of ignition interlock devices in offenders of impaired driving vehicles. An ignition interlock system is basically a breathalyzer that is installed and connected to the ignition of a vehicle, and every time the driver wants to start the vehicle, they have to blow into the mouthpiece for it to ensure they have not had too much to drink and are able to drive safely. According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, “Once your vehicle is started, the interlock device will ask you to provide breath samples at random pre-set times while the engine is running…” to make sure no one but the driver who is supposed to drive was blowing into it, also “If you don’t provide a sample, or if your BAC exceeds the limit, the device will issue a warning, record the event and active specific alarm systems (e.g. lights flashing, horn honking) until you turn off the ignition.” This ensures that it is actually the driver blowing into the device and that it is safe for them to drive, or else the car will react with an alarm which would catch a police officer’s eye or a random bystander. If the offender refuses the ignition interlock device, that individual will be prohibited from driving until their suspension is up. By installing this device, it will ensure that one less person is driving under the influence and less of a chance of a crash, which means the roads are safer for everyone.
Though drunk driving is a big focus for the government and authorities, drug impaired driving is also very significant. It needs just as much attention or more than alcohol impaired driving does, because there are only a few ways to detect driving under the influence of drugs. Many people are more worried about drunk drivers and not as much concerned about the drug impaired drivers because they are more familiar with alcohol. Drug related driving incidents will increase as a result of the legalization of marijuana in Canada. According to CBC News in 2009, “…Canada is cited as the leading supplier of ecstasy in North America as well as a major producer and shipper of methamphetamine for markets around the world.”
The drug ecstasy is often taken by teenagers and people in their early twenties, as well as marijuana and cocaine. These are just some of the drugs that people in Canada do on a regular basis, even when they are driving. There are new drugs coming out every couple of years which is dangerous, as people experiment and drive. In saying this, there needs to be some sort of tool created so that the police can find out if someone is on drugs as easy as they can find out if they have had any alcohol. Just recently there has been a tool created to test saliva for THC levels to see if a driver is under the influence of drugs. But, there is no way before doing this test to see if a driver is under the influence of drugs. This will still certainly stop a large amount of people each year, but I believe something else still needs to be created to help catch a drug impaired driver. I do not think a road side sobriety test is accurate for drug impaired drivers. If another device was to be created, it would ultimately help society and the roads to be much safer. Scientists and the government can only further this thought and improve it with the information that they now have on it. By making a device like this, people who are driving under the influence of drugs will be caught and it will keep roads significantly safer for everyone.
Impaired driving is an ongoing issue that kills innocent people every year. Whether that be alcohol or drug related. The government has increased the penalties, but other than that the only other thing they can do is encourage people to call a cab or friend. There are many tools to help police prevent and detect drunk driving such as ride-spot checks, a breathalyzer and the ignition interlock device. Drug impaired driving is just as dangerous or more than alcohol impaired driving. The use of illegal drugs is increasing and the new legalization of marijuana in Canada have the deaths for impaired driving increasing. Technology is always evolving and something needs to be created to tell if a driver is impaired in any way at all. With the help of the government, police, and scientists there is hope in years from now that impaired driving will hardly be a problem. With new laws, new devices being created and new tools this will ultimately help put an end to impaired driving.
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